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Heed Pope's call on climate change

By Stephen Ndegwa | September 6th 2015

Global warming has increasingly become the leading concern in the world. That the world’s climate is changing for the worse is no longer a matter of conjecture or preserve of scientific discourse.

Over the last couple of decades, meteorologists and other climatologists have raised the red flag, warning us of the ticking time bomb if we do not take urgent measures to curb rising temperatures.

World leaders have also taken up the mantle, with US President Barack Obama taking the lead by recently reactivating the US Climate Action Plan (CAP). The CAP was unveiled on June 25th, 2013. This comprehensive plan is the first of its kind and was developed by US Government to strategically achieve three overarching goals: cut domestic carbon pollution, prepare the US for climate change impacts, and lead international efforts to address global climate change.

Although there are several reasons and theories that have been attributed to this spectacle man’s socio-economic activities are at the epicentre. They include burning of fossil fuels, especially in industrial production and unbridled deforestation. This has led to the so-called “greenhouse effect” by thinning the ozone layer, the atmospheric layer that shields the earth against the vagaries of direct sun rays.

The effects of climate change are deep and far reaching. In Kenya, for instance, we have witnessed the swapping of seasons. It is now common for sunny spells in place of traditionally cold seasons, or to experience dry spells when it is supposed to be time for long rains. Floods and forest fires have also become a common occurrence in many regions around the world. This includes massive floods (El Nino) and prolonged droughts (La Nina). The arctic is now on a constant meltdown, leading to the rise of oceanic levels. Almost every region has had its fair share of environmental disasters as a result of global warming.

But beyond the environmental ramifications of climate change, there are moral and ethical questions being raised about the causes and effects of this phenomenon. This school of thought is led by Pope Francis who in recent times has taken a prominent role in appealing to global powers to rethink the current model of social and economic development. His blunt message is contained in his encyclical titled, “Laudato Si’ (Praised Be) of the Holy Father Francis on Care of our Common Home”, the first ever papal encyclical dedicated to environmental matters published on 18thJune 2015.

It is instructive that the Pope chose the name of the patron saint of animals and ecology, and has preached against environmental degradation since he was a cardinal in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Indeed, he is soon taking his message to global powers. On September 25, Pope Francis will formally address the UN General Assembly in New York. This year’s assembly will involve huge decisions for its members on sustainable development and climate change.

Still, in another first, the Pope will address a joint meeting of Congress on the day preceding the UN meet. At least 30 per cent of Congress members are Catholic. Here, the Pontiff is also expected to lobby for both environmental and social justice, including drastic changes in consumption by the world’s wealthy nations.

In the 246-point encyclical, the Pope says that any effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in “lifestyles,models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which todaygovern societies”. He blames human selfishness, greedand social decadence as the main cause of degradation of the environment. Man has forgotten that he was created and put in this world for a higher calling and not as an end in itself.

The Pope observes that we are only addressing symptoms of climate change rather than its root causes. Adaptation and mitigation measures against global warming must include not only scientific and technological processes, but also spiritual and moral actions. We must sacrifice and be generous to future generations.

The writer is Executive Director of the Centre for Climate Change [email protected]

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